On Thursday night, the 2012 Republican National Convention wrapped up as Mitt Romney formally accepted his party's presidential nomination. It was an eventful week that got off to a bumpy start when fears that Hurricane Isaac might slam into Tampa on the gathering's first day forced the GOP to cancel the opening events, condensing the program from four days to three. But the storm largely spared Florida, and the week was filled with stirring speeches and more than a little controversy. Whose fortunes rose during the GOP's big gathering, and whose star dimmed? Here, a brief guide to the convention's winners and losers:
"Acceptance speeches are no easy thing," says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post, and even though Romney isn't the natural speaker that President Obama is, he "did what he needed to do in his speech," making "a strong case" against Obama's record and "a slightly-less-strong case for himself." His best moment "was when he talked wistfully (and emotionally) about missing the joys of raising kids — a genuinely human moment that almost anyone" can relate to. Romney's wife, Ann, paved the way with her "wonderful speech," which revealed a touching and emotional side of her husband that few people knew, says John Dickerson at Slate. And by the time Romney concluded his "warm, humble" speech, he had successfully redefined himself, says Tim Stanley at Britain's Telegraph. He went into the convention a "pod person," and came out "a human being."
Before Condoleezza Rice even wrapped up her speech on Wednesday, she was showered with praise from the Right and Left alike. "Condi's speech was presidential," tweeted MSNBC liberal firebrand Chris Matthews. "Best address of the convention." Rice is now being hailed as the party's next star, and possibly a future presidential nominee. Respondents to a Yahoo poll rated Rice's "perfectly written and executed speech" the best of the convention, even better than Mitt's, says Scott Paulson at Examiner.com. Well, Rice's "brilliant speech" had it all, says Jonathan Tobin at Commentary, from "foreign policy gravitas" to moving personal recollections about her childhood in the segregated South. She supports abortion rights, so the happy talk of a presidential run is a "pipe dream," but "Rice is a star and the Republicans are lucky to have her on their side."
Mitt Romney's running mate "knocked the ball out of the park with his speech," says Kent Hoover at The Business Journals. He morphed from policy wonk to attack dog, "energizing the convention hall" with his swipes at President Obama, and "even made an asset out of what had been considered a liability — his proposal to transform Medicare." Ryan's speech was a "masterpiece," says Jim Geraghty at National Review. He was so warm, and connected so well, it was almost unnerving. "The delegates were going nuts." He was "conversational, direct, funny, detailed" — in short, he was downright "Reaganesque."
The vice-presidential candidate's big speech was indeed "well-written, well-delivered, and well-received," says James Fallows at The Atlantic, but "it was also profoundly dishonest." His deceptions ranged from the small (suggesting that Obama was to blame for the closing of a GM plant whose fate was sealed before Obama took office) to the large (blasting Obama for not pushing through the Simpson-Bowles debt-reduction recommendations without mentioning that "Ryan himself was on the commission and voted against its recommendations."). In the wake of Ryan's speech, media outlets across the nation branded him a fibber — or worse.
The Tea Party
The Tea Party, "which energized and even seemed to overtake the Republican Party in 2010," got snubbed in Tampa, says Rosie Gray at BuzzFeed. Over the first two days, there were 38 speakers during the convention's primetime hours, and not one of them — not even Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — mentioned the tax-busting small-government movement by name. "It's a striking absence for a movement that has grown from a series of protests to a legitimate faction of the Republican Party, with many representatives in Congress and in state governments." Of course, Tea Partiers shouldn't be too upset, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. Look at the GOP's staunchly conservative platform. "The Republican Party of 2012 is pretty much the Tea Party at this point."
The famed actor and director made a surprise appearance to kick off the convention's Thursday night finale, says Mark Memmott at NPR, and delivered what "was easily one of the more bizarre moments in recent political conventions history." The creaky 82-year-old rambled, unscripted, and appeared "befuddled," says Tim Stanley at Britain's The Telegraph. The low point came when he started debating an empty chair where he imagined President Obama sitting. "Clint and the invisible Obama got into such a heated argument that it began to feel awkward." The internet exploded with parody photos showing people arguing with chairs, or "Eastwooding," say Benjy Sarlin and Evan McMorris-Santoro at Talking Points Memo. Clint went in a legend, and came out a joke.